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Title: Restoration and contemporary use of 19th century shopping passages: heritage-led versus retail-led rehabilitation
Authors: PLEVOETS, Bie 
Issue Date: 2009
Source: 8th International Colloquium on Arts, Heritage, Non Profit and Social Marketing, Bradford - United Kingdom, 11 September 2009
Abstract: Shopping passages have been a subject of extensive study since their development by the turn of the 19th century. Passages are considered important in history of architecture and retail history. Moreover they served as a framework for socio-cultural studies about modern and postmodern society. An overview of preserved passages was given by Geist (1979) and was updated by Arai (1999). But no attention has been given to the tension between the restoration concept and the contemporary retail concept of this building type. The purpose of this contribution is to bring existing research streams together by studying the relation between interventions, executed to meet contemporary needs of retailers, and the restoration of the building. Two case studies of 19th century shopping passages which were recently restored and rehabilitated for contemporary use are analysed: the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels (BE) and the Passage in The Hague (NL). Both cases are passages from the second half of the 19th century and their program and architectural concept can well be compared, however the approach to restoration and rehabilitation in both cases is very different. The comparison of the two case studies will be used to build up a better understanding of the rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings, legally protected as a monument,without falling into a commercially driven rehabilitation. At first the history and restoration concept of both projects is studied through literature review and archival research. For the Galeries Saint-Hubert, the restoration was very well documented and the publication discussed the history of the buildings, technical issues about the restoration and contained an interview with the architects and the plans of the restoration. Contrary, about the restoration of the Passage no publication existed. For that reason data were collected through interviews with the monument protection board from The Hague and with the project developer. Afterwards, the contemporary use and retail concept of both cases was studied through observation of the site. The two case studies were compared on the level of restoration as well as their contemporary use. The comparison between both cases illustrates the tensile area between heritage and retail development. Whereas the rehabilitation project of the Galeries Saint-Hubert was explicitly heritage-led, the project of the Passage was commercially driven and as such retail-led. Although both cases are legally protected as a monument by their own national state, in the case of the Passage a loss of the heritage value could not be avoided due to commercial pressure. Contrary, the rehabilitation of the Galeries Saint-Hubert is an exemplary case of a historic commercial building rehabilitated for retail uses without suffering a retail-led rehabilitation. However, Brown and Maclaren’s (2005)case study of Powerscourt Townhouse Center (IR), demonstrates that prioritising commercialization over preservation of the genius loci of the building is detrimental to the consumer experience. In 2008, the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels is submitted to the Unesco World Heritage Tentative List. In the application dossier, it is stressed that the case should not be seen as an isolated example but as a part of a broader network of passages in Europe and that the audition to the list should not be restricted to the passage in Brussels but that other transnational examples should be included in cities as Paris, Bordeaux, Naples, Milan, Moscow, Prague, Budapest, etc. For this, specific criteria has to be outlined taking into account its historical significance, as well as its current value in a contempoarary setting. As this contribution only deals with two passages in Belgium and The Netherlands, the viability of the conclusions cannot be generalised to all passages in Europe. Nevertheless we can state that the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels can be seen as a very good example for other projects both on the level of restoration as to contemporary management of a multi-faceted project as a passage. Already in the 19th century the Galeries Saint-Hubert inspired designers all over Europe in the development of a passage, today this buildings still can be a source of inspiration for the conservation of this exceptional building type in historic city centres in Europe. This research is a part of a PhD research on the tensile area between heritage and retail in historic city centres in Europe. Beside buildings with initially a retail function, also other historic building types reused as retail functions will be dealt with in this research. Today, consumers and retailers seek for shopping experiences that have a sense of authenticity. Therefore historic monuments become attractive retail environments. From the other hand bringing a new function in a desolated historic building can provide funds for its maintenance and its restoration as it is easier to find investors for retail projects than it is for social or cultural projects. nevertheless, different sad examples are hand were contemporary interventions did not respect the monumental value of the building.Therefore, this PhD aims to set up policy guidelines for retail-reuse projects to obtain a qualitative result, both on the level of conservation as on retail.
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Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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